hi·​a·​tus | \ hī-ˈā-təs How to pronounce hiatus (audio) \

Definition of hiatus

1a : a break in or as if in a material object : gap the weedy hiatus between the town and the railroad— Willa Cather the hiatus between the theory and the practice of the party— J. G. Colton
b biology : a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ
2a : an interruption in time or continuity : break especially : a period when something (such as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted after a 5-year hiatus from writing a summer hiatus
b : the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound

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Did You Know?

Hiatus comes from "hiare," a Latin verb meaning "to gape" or "to yawn," and first appeared in English in the middle of the 16th century. Originally, the word referred to a gap or opening in something, such as a cave opening in a cliff. In the 18th century, Laurence Sterne used the word humorously in his novel Tristram Shandy, writing of "the hiatus in Phutatorius's breeches." These days, "hiatus" is usually used in a temporal sense to refer to a pause or interruption (as in a song), or a period during which an activity is temporarily suspended (such as a hiatus from teaching).

Examples of hiatus in a Sentence

The band is making an album again after a five-year hiatus. steam was rising from an hiatus in the ground
Recent Examples on the Web Following talks in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Macron also called for a revival of trilateral ties with Germany, urging a summit meeting before the summer, following years of hiatus. Washington Post, "France’s Macron wants closer ties with Poland on EU," 3 Feb. 2020 Despite their long hiatus, anticipation is high for the group’s return. Tara Edwards, refinery29.com, "K-Pop Is Poised To Make A, Ahem, Big Bang At Coachella," 14 Jan. 2020 The team spent their hiatus both resting and practicing. ExpressNews.com, "San Antonio Spurs have tables turned on them by Cleveland Cavaliers," 12 Dec. 2019 Our trip to the desert has been on a bit of a hiatus—the group has since become lawyers and doctors, moved across the country, and had babies. Noah Kaufman, Condé Nast Traveler, "In Defense of Taking the Same Group Trip Over and Over Again," 23 Sep. 2019 Styles says of the seemingly permanent One Direction hiatus. Marcus Jones, EW.com, "Harry Styles reveals what it would take for One Direction to make new music," 26 Aug. 2019 Duma has been on something of a fashion-world hiatus since she and her friend Ulyana Sergeenko were found to have exchanged notes with racist language in January 2018. Vogue, "Onetime Street Style Star Mentioned in the Mueller Report," 18 Apr. 2019 On the title-track opener, Keenan appears to engage with the question of how to approach a daunting task such as resuming a band’s recording career after more than a decade of hiatus. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "A Perfect Circle's Hard Rock Against Hard Times," 19 Apr. 2018 Fox News’s uneasy existence — pushing up to the edges of the conversation, and in so doing opening itself to real criticism — is exemplified by Laura Ingraham, who returned to her show The Ingraham Angle after a week of hiatus Monday night. Daniel D'addario, Time, "Laura Ingraham Is Fox News's Problem, and Its Way Forward," 10 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hiatus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hiatus

1563, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hiatus

Latin, from hiare to yawn — more at yawn

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Time Traveler for hiatus

Time Traveler

The first known use of hiatus was in 1563

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Last Updated

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hiatus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hiatus. Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for hiatus


How to pronounce hiatus (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of hiatus

: a period of time when something (such as an activity or program) is stopped


hi·​a·​tus | \ hī-ˈāt-əs How to pronounce hiatus (audio) \

Medical Definition of hiatus

: a gap or passage through an anatomical part or organ especially : an opening through which another part or organ passes (such as the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus and vagus nerves pass)

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